You know what you meant to say, but did your fingers know that? In other words, exactly what did you type, and are you actually communicating the message you had intended? Below are three simple ways to proof your work before you email or publish it!
Read What You Typed
This first option sounds so simple! But you’d be amazed at how many people think they don’t have time to read what they typed before they send it! When in a hurry, at least read it immediately before you send it. And when I say “read,” I mean word-for-word! Character-for-character if you can muster it.
Messages on the Fly
If the message is something required on the fly, this actually saves time! Don’t assume (review what this word means) that your audience can read minds. Can you? And even if you can, can they?
Who’s Reading This?
If you’re writing to a specific audience, write for that audience. How should you phrase something that reaches your audience? Which words are more appropriate? How does the person you’re writing think? Obviously, these are things you’ll need to consider when you have a little time to compose your article, document, story, etc. But here we’re focusing on you proofing your work so you are appropriately communicating with your intended audience. To do that, you have to read what you typed.
Read it Aloud
On last reading tip: Read it aloud. Break longer work into segments and read each segment aloud. I promise you, there will be gaffs you swear typed themselves into your word processor when you do!
Cold is Gold
When something you write is important, give it the time needed to make it perfect before anyone else sees it. I’m a huge fan of letting something go cold before I give it a final proofreading.
Years ago when my parents passed away, I had to go through a lot of their paperwork. Designated the “family writer,” much of that paperwork had been things of mine they thought worth saving. At first, some of that paperwork was so cold I didn’t even recognize it as my own. I remember even saying out loud with disgust, “Who wrote this drivel!” As I continued reading, I started remembering the document contents. “Oh! I wrote this drivel! Oy!”
The point here is that sometimes (make that oftentimes) you’re writing so quickly you don’t recognize some rather huge gaffs in the heat of the moment. But let that page/chapter/document grow as cold as you can allow, and man, will those gaffs shine through! So when you are writing something that needs to be perfect, schedule in enough time to put it on ice for a while. Then, when it’s nice and chilly, take it out again and proof it. Wow!
Let Your Fingers Be Your Guide
When I was in first grade, my teacher made us take our fingers off the page while we were reading. I suppose there were all kinds of philosophical reasons behind this, but here I’m suggesting you ignore their advice while proofreading your work. Put those fingers on that paper. Oh, yes. That means you need to print it out.
Experiment with this for yourself: Read something you’ve written on the computer, then print it out and read it. Turns out we see things differently on screen and in print.
Let your fingers glide past each word slowly. Then read the entire sentence. If you have a red pen, mark your necessary corrections. Yes, I realize you can do this inside of your writing program. But even publishing houses require their proofreaders to read semi-finalized typeset, printed pages! At least the one I worked for did. And we’d always catch something the copy editor missed. Always.
In the End, Get It Done
Everyone had deadlines. So after all your best efforts, just get it done. And after all your best efforts, don’t beat yourself up if someone else finds a type-o. Heck, my first book was published with two of the same errors on the same page! That was after three passes with hired editors, and my own proofreading! (The copies you’d now buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Xulon have been corrected. The copies I’m giving away still have the boo-boos.) A former high school classmate who had gotten an early copy pointed it out to me. I was relieved to discover it wasn’t a horribly embarrassing error, but this was written for children to read! Nevertheless, the book published, and I have never heard another word about the goofs. Sometimes, in spite of all our best efforts, goofs happen. I recommend you a good laugh at the faux pas and move on.
You’ll Have to Order the Books to Find Out
Nope. I’m not going to tell you what the goof is. Or which page it’s on. I’ll let you figure that out after you receive your free books from me! (See Home page for details.)